My friend never cooks – and it costs her almost $5,000 a year

Husband cooking at the stove while his wife watches, both laughing.

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The cost of dining out and ordering out can really add up.

Key points

  • Some people don’t have the time or desire to cook.
  • Not cooking can cost so much money, which ends up hindering your other financial goals.
  • Simple recipes and meal kits can help you start cooking, as can inviting family members into the kitchen with you.

I really enjoy cooking. And I’m actually pretty decent at it. The reason I don’t do it more often comes down to time, or the lack of it.

Not only do I have children and a household to maintain, but I also work full time — and often more than full time, which means more than 40 hours a week. Between that and some volunteer work I do, there are weeks when I just don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. And those are the weeks I go back to takeout, despite the bigger credit card bill it leads to.

But my friend almost never cooks. And the reason has nothing to do with lack of time. Rather, it is a lack of desire.

Dining out can be a big expense

My friend claims she’s a terrible cook. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never tasted anything that comes out of her kitchen. But it’s not just that she doesn’t like to cook. She also finds it more cost-effective to dine out and order in than to cook for herself, since it’s just her and her husband.

Last year, I challenged that line of thinking and asked her to tally up her spending on restaurants and takeout. We then compared that cost to the cost of increasing her existing grocery spending by $200 per week (keeping in mind that she and her husband usually eat breakfast and lunch at home and make it themselves). Overall, we found that even if cooking cost her an extra $200 in groceries, she would save about $5,000 a year compared to the cost of dining out and ordering takeout as often as she does.

It was an eye opener to say the least. And this year, one of my friend’s New Year’s resolutions is to try to get a little more involved in cooking.

If you tend to avoid cooking because you don’t like it or don’t know how, the reality is that it can save you a lot of money. So here are some options to consider.

1. Sign up for the meal kit service

Meal kits are often more expensive than buying groceries at the supermarket. But they can be a source of savings compared to dining out and ordering out. And they make the cooking process simple, because all the ingredients you need are delivered to your door with easy-to-follow recipes.

2. Stick to very simple recipes

You don’t have to go from not cooking at all, to preparing complicated three-course meals in your kitchen. Instead, keep things simple. Stick to basic recipes like chicken and rice or pasta and vegetables until you’re more comfortable experimenting with different ingredients and techniques.

3. Make it a family affair

There is no rule that you have to suffer alone in the kitchen while cooking meals. If cooking really isn’t in your wheelhouse, enlist the help of your family members to help you get better at it. Cook meals together with your spouse, and if your children are old enough, let them help.

Never cooking at all can cost you a lot of money. Although I don’t see my friend becoming a regular cook, I think she will try to be better at it this year. And if you’re tired of spending a fortune on restaurants and takeaways, it pays to do what you can to get involved in cooking.

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